A Must Do! Career Due Diligence |Your Life Is Your Business

We spend hours pouring over newspaper inserts to find the best clothing buys and grocery store coupons. We spend hours Googling information about vacation spots and fitness regimens. All, before we commit.

Shouldn’t we do this for our career choices too? 

Ask any high school student facing college what s/he plans to major in and you’ll hear: English, econ, accounting, pysch. 

Then ask, “Why?” Typical answers:

  • “It’s my favorite subject.”
  • “I get good grades in that subject.”
  • “I want to be an accountant [doctor, teacher, marketer]….”
  • “My parents said that would be a good major for me.”

The problem isn’t these answers: It’s the questions left unanswered like:

  • What careers paths/jobs will that major open for you?
  • Do those paths match what you want from your life? 

A college education today is still believed to be a “leg up” to better jobs, mainly  higher pay and promotions. It doesn’t necessarily mean better for your happiness, satisfaction, or health. So a lot is riding on your major and the jobs attached to it.

Why due diligence? Because it’s your life! 

Students pick majors with romanticized notions about the great jobs they’ll get by being accomplished students. They never talk to anyone currently doing those entry level or supervisory jobs to get a behind-the-scenes look.

I once coached a graduate from a prestigious university whose major was criminal justice. Just before graduation, she realized that starting jobs in her field meant street assignments. No way! So she stayed on, switching to journalism until she realized that starting reporter jobs meant evenings and weekends chasing stories. She switched again to English lit and graduated with no direction, huge tuition bills, and no viable career path.

Hard to believe she didn’t investigate  those job realities the second and third time? It just didn’t occur to her and she’s not alone.

I’ve also worked with many, career-weary adults who took a long time to admit that they had invested years in a career that never fit them. Each one had to either reinvent him/herself or start over. Even with their own experiences behind them, they don’t teach their children how to avoid the same mistakes. Why? Because no one showed them how.

Don’t get me wrong. Every career is an adventure. That’s good. What isn’t good is committing to a career path blindly. Due diligence helps minimize painful disappointment or reasons to start over. You can’t control for everything, but you can avoid lot of missteps.

You need to do this! 

Whether you are a student, an entry level or veteran employee, each time you say to yourself: “I want to be a [job title]:”

  • Write down the name(s) of 5 people in your family, community or among your friends, who are doing that job or one like it
  • Ask them to spend 15 minutes explaining to you what they do on a daily basis
  • Ask what they like best or least, what skills or education they needed, what it takes to get promoted, and who else you can talk to
  • See whether or not their work environment fits you
  • Ask yourself: Can I see myself in that line of work for a long time? 

(This is called information interviewing, a technique credited to Richard N. Bolles, who’s book, What Color Is Your Parachute?, gives the details. Find more on line. See, it’s all out there for the Googling!)

CBS contributor, Ben Stein, says, “The giants I have worked with in my life… found the thing that they were very, very good at, and did that with extraordinary focus.” Then he adds: “…harmonize your goals with your talents.”

That’s big! If your goals aren’t rooted in a realistic understanding of what the job market is all about, harmony is harder to come by. When you’re business fit, you’ve achieved the understanding and insights you need to build your best career. Let the explorations begin!

Have a story about a student who isn’t making the connection between his/her studies and the job market? Any ideas why students don’t explore the real story behind the kinds of jobs they’re after? Your insights can make a big difference!

Start Smart. Finish Strong. | Job-to-Career Strategies

Singin’ the “I Need a Job” blues? It starts like this: “Don’t know what I wanna do with my life…Got so many bills to pay.” It’s a sorrowful tune about the rock and the hard place. 

You want a job that launches your career but can’t find one—the rock.  You settle for a make-do job to cover debts and expenses—the hard place. Luckily, there is a cure for the blues! 

Jobs don’t make a career, but they can add up to one. 

A job is a means to an end. So before you start looking, you need to know what you’re really after. 

I recently spoke to a group of college seniors with questions about the job market. One of the students expressed confusion and frustration about the pull of trying to find a job that matched his major versus taking a $20-an-hour security job to start paying his tuition debts. 

I asked him, “What are you interested in?” 

He answered, “Bodybuilding.”  Bingo! 

The bodybuilding industry is huge. It’s made up of companies that: 

  • Produce body-building equipment, supplements, and attire
  • Build and design gyms
  • Market equipment, products, and services
  • Handle event planning and promotion
  • Offer personal trainers, DVD’s, and on-air programs
  • Produce print and on-line publications 

Each one of these companies has jobs to fill at all salary levels. If you really want to work in a certain industry, first get connected to it. 

I told this young man, “If you’re willing to work for $20 an hour, then look for $20-an-hour job at a company that’s connected to the bodybuilding industry.” 

Why? Because, at least, he’ll get in a door that gives him an insider’s look at the industry that he’s attracted too. Once he’s there, he’s in a position to stand out.

 Positioning is about building your body of work.

When you start any job, you don’t really know how the business works. So your objective is to do what it takes to accumulate knowledge, skills, experience, and insights that will make you a strong candidate for new opportunities when the time comes. 

So what should you do in that current job: 

  • Master the technical skills and processes to maximize your productivity.
  • Make strong, professional relationships with the colleagues, managers, suppliers, and vendors you meet. Stay in touch.
  • Learn about the competition and how the company is dealing with it.
  • Volunteer for special assignments; Offer to work on a project even if it isn’t within your existing job.
  • Participate on work teams to solve problems.
  • Ask people you work with about their career paths; Do information interviewing with them.
  • Keep alert to internal openings and job opportunities in other companies tied to your preferred industry. 

Be ready to move when the time comes.  

  • Keep your resume updated.
  • Maintain a professional social media presence.
  • Let people in your company and outside know that you are interested in other opportunities.
  • Think through the next steps you want to take and what you require to make a move. (Remember: Each job change is about adding to your skills, knowledge, experience, and network! It’s not all about money and title.) 

The key is to be prepared and ready to make those moves. That’s what it means to be business fit. 

You build a career by being strategic about the jobs you take.

Flailing is not a strategy. That’s what taking jobs for paychecks looks like. In order to take control of your career, you need to be under control about your choices. 

The sequencing of your jobs tells a story on your resume. A job history that demonstrates a commitment to learning about an industry from the ground up sets you apart. That’s how to trade that hard place for a warm seat that fits just right.

 What are some of the related businesses you discovered while working in an industry? What do you see emerging in today’s marketplace?